Musical Memories: Grandmother living with dementia can still play piano

Grandma Dorothy plays piano in her room
Grandma Dorothy plays piano in her room(KVLY)
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 6:32 PM CST
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HALSTAD, M.N. (Valley News Live) - Music makes us whole, and for some, it can even bring back memories. That’s the case for one grandma living with dementia in Halstad, Minn.

All is calm and all is bright, but it’s anything but silent in the room of Dorothy Steen.

“It just kind of lifts you up. It’s a happy time,” says Dorothy.

The 87-year-old Halstad native has been playing meaningful music since she was 5-years-old.

“It just gives you a good feeling,” Dorothy says. “You see the words and it just, I don’t know, I love it. It’s a good past time I think.”

The good feeling is still being spread, through radiant beams, while her granddaughter, Hannah Lorentz visits and sings along. Hannah even remembers the moments Dorothy may have forgotten.

“The tradition would be to eat dinner together, then we would always sing carols,” Hannah says looking to her grandmother. “Right, Grandma?”

“Mhm,” Dorothy nods.

“Before all of us kids got to open presents, so we were a little anxious, but we did love singing all the carols,” Hannah recalls.

The music Dorothy plays gives everyone around her an easy, peaceful feeling. However, it’s still hard to see a loved one living with dementia.

“No matter how old we get, we still remember some things,” Dorothy says as her granddaughter wipes away a tear.

“Dorothy just uses that gift every single day,” Angie Nelson, the administrator of Halstad Living says. “She continues to bless us, even with dementia, as she did for decades before.”

For the staff at Halstad Living, her music brings nothing but joy.

“It makes my heart so happy to walk by and hear her. And she’s just a happy, lovely individual,” Angie says.

Her ability to still play music today comes as a Christmas miracle. During the holidays in 2021, Dorothy wasn’t behind the piano, instead she was on hospice fighting for her life.

“Those are success stories and we celebrate them. It did happen and she’s still here gracing us with her talents,” Angie says.

A success story not too often seen in a nursing home, but one now celebrated daily. While we may not see heavenly hosts singing alleluia at the living center, we get pretty close with Grandma Dorothy.

“You nailed it!” Hannah beams as her grandma finishes playing ‘Silent Night.’